Remake Me

I realise with surprise, at times, that I am a mother, and that I have a child. No longer a baby, but a girl, a daughter. Daughters. The word catches in my throat, and my heart drops into the pit of my stomach where it knots, making my head spin. Like a player at a roulette wheel,waiting for the deciding moment when the dream, the beautiful dream, may be swept away.

The moment passes, and I know, with your heads resting in the nooks of my arms, I know that this is forever, you will always be mine. My baby, my child, my daughters. In making you, you remake me.

Mamatography Week 33: Growing Girls

My beautiful girls. So in love with the life that they bring into my days.

215/366 – First Friends

Aviya and Harry – South African friends came round for a South African food day, which happened to fall on South Africa’s ‘National Women’s Day’. Just loved the shared snuggles and making friends.

216/366 – Purple Eyes, Like Mama

Okay, don’t judge me! I went out a few days ago and wore make-up. I know… once upon a time that was the norm. Anyway, since then, Ameli’s been saying ‘I want purple eyes, Mama, like you.’  Well, we did it, she wore it for a few hours and she’s not asked again since. But she enjoyed it.  She did walk around all afternoon going, “Look Mama, I’m Luschka” though, which was rather sweet.

217/366 – Granny And Grandpa

The inlaws came for a visit. It’s so lovely seeing them – they are just really great people.

218/366 – My First Sensory Box

Aviya doesn’t sit up unassisted yet, which really bugs me! By this age, Ameli was crawling already! But then, I always used to say that she robbed me of a ‘babyhood’ since she did everything so fast, so I don’t know why I’m complaining now! Anyway, if she could sit up she’d have a lot more fun, but since she doesn’t, she flops over a lot. I gave her a box of ribbons to play with, and she tried to eat the box and then the ribbons, and then she flopped over, but at least she had fun for a few minutes.

219/366 – Picnic Baby

We walked to a local friend’s house, and Ameli and her son played while Aviya watched. Such a cutie though.

220/366 – Garden Centre Fish

I took the girls out for a walk at our local garden centre with another friend, and just snapped pictures as we went along. Here’s Ameli looking in the mirror (what a stunning picture, right?), and the next one is Aviya getting a pedicure* from the koi fish. She wasn’t sure about it!

*They just nibbled at her toes, not painful, not a real pedicure.

What else has been happening in the world this week? Let me know!

The Changing Face Of A Mother's Love

Before I open myself up to a huge can of whip-ass, I want to make something very, very clear: I adore my children, and my love for them is limitless, boundless and unconditional. Don’t for a moment think there’s anything in the post that follows that contradicts that, because there isn’t.

Will I love my second child as much as my first?

How can I feel what I feel for my oldest for another child?

How is it possible that my heart can stretch to fill with the same love for my new baby?

I know I’m not the only mother that has wrestled with these questions while feeling new life grow in my womb, and I know that I’m not the only one who, with the benefit of hindsight and an overwhelming love for my new addition, can now say, “It just does.”

I am obviously only almost five months into loving two children, so perhaps I’m not an expert, but I have come to realise many things about a mother’s heart, and motherly love in the last 20-something weeks.

I lay in the birthpool with Ameli swimming about, and between contractions cuddled her. I gave her a hug and began to cry as I said good bye to my only child. I knew that there was something special there that was about to end – I just didn’t know how. In the weeks that followed, a number of things changed.

For a start, my baby girl suddenly seemed huge. The fact that at two and a half she wasn’t potty trained yet irritated me, and her nappies were gross. She continued to nurse around sleep times and suddenly her face and body in my lap felt morosely big.

Of course, she didn’t change at all, overnight, but the addition of a newer, smaller baby suddenly changed my gorgeous oldest girl in my eyes. I tried to keep to our routines as much as possible so that she wouldn’t feel the difference in my perception of her, and I think that worked well.

As the weeks have gone on, I’ve readjusted and grown ‘used’ to her again, and now I no longer see her as a huge, oversized baby – she’s just my little girl again.

But my love for her has changed.

For months now, I’ve felt guilty about the fact that my feelings towards her have changed, and I’ve felt like I didn’t want to love Aviya too much, because I didn’t want to take away from my love for Ameli. But, the love for Aviya has come in overwhelming, breath catching waves, and I cannot imagine my life without or before her.

It’s taken me some time, but I finally realise that everything is as it’s meant to be.

Loving Aviya with my whole being has somehow not taken love away from Ameli, all it’s done is balance out the love for Ameli.

What do I mean?

Well, I realise now that my overwhelming, all consuming, life-changing, passionate, almost obsessive love for Ameli, which burned like a fire within me, and physically hurt at the thought of anything happening to her, or of her going to nursery without me, or would cause my heart to palpitate when she was getting into the car with her daddy was probably not good for her long term.

Naomi Stadlen writes in “How Mothers Love” that this kind of love is a huge burden for a child to bare. When a mother’s life is completely wrapped up in her child, it places a lot of responsibility on the child to be something, or do something or turn out a specific way in order to almost validate the mother’s existence. This made a lot of sense to me.

The 29 months I had with just Ameli were passionate, in the way only a mother who has brought life into the world and been swept up by the unconditionality of that love, the all-consuming wholeness of it, can understand passion. But with the arrival of a second love, it is as if the passion is balanced out, so that the love can thrive, and the children can grow. Sometimes I look at Ameli and I miss that burning in my heart, and other times it comes over me – for both girls – and I can smile and thank God for my beautiful children, and realise that when it’s all working well, nature is so very smart, because such a gripping love cannot be sustained long term, and in fact, the balanced love is so much better, so much less exhausting and so much more fulfilling.

A mother’s love does stretch. It does grow for each child – as Naomi Stadlen says, the empty womb fills with love. I am grateful that I no longer feel guilt for loving one child, or loving the other too much. My girls take my breath away, and my hope is that rather than drowning them in expectation or a need to give some back, my love for them will make them soar out into the world confident in what, and in who, they are.

Dear Aviya – Letter To A Five Month Old

My darling Aviya

You’re five months old today. Five months. Five months. I say the words out loud and I struggle to believe them. I write them down and they look wrong, feel wrong. Where has the time gone?! Have I held on to enough? Can I recall your scent? Will the memory of your hand clutching my little finger live with me forever?  I fear I’m already forgetting every moment that wasn’t captured on film.  How has it gone so fast?

I’ve learned so much about myself in the last few months. Things I’d never have known if it wasn’t for motherhood, and if it wasn’t for you. For one thing, I’ve learned that you can pick yourself up and drag yourself out and confront the world with a smile when you’ve got something – someone – for whom  you have to ‘go on’.  I’ve also learned that I’m made of pretty strong stuff.I knew the transition from no children to one would be huge, and I know that it was thoroughly life changing for me, in every facet of human-ness, but I had no idea that the move from one to two would be equally big, in entirely different ways.

I just hope that having gone back to work, no matter how ‘part time’ it has been, so early on hasn’t had an effect, negatively, on you.

I don’t think so though. Honey, you are the smiliest baby ever. You wake up and stare at the ceiling for a while, gurgling and being happy. It’s a foreign concept to me. Also, unlike your big sister, you are perfectly happy to lie there, watching the world go by, and then, perhaps, in a while, have some milk. It’s rather bizarre!

Everyone always asks me if you’re a ‘good’ baby. Of course you are. I mean, you’re a baby, you can’t even sit up yet. There’s not really a lot you can do ‘wrong’ in a prone position! Pedantics aside though, you are such a contended child. It’s an honour being your mama. You’re the baby books are written about!

You have a realy laid back and relaxed character. Nothing really phases you, and you smile at the drop of a hat.

Ameli adores you. The biggest threat to your safety is her all-consuming, overwhelming hugs.   She lies on top of you, with her arm around your neck, and you rarely stand a chance! She loves lying next to you, picking you up onto her belly, then rolling over you and bringing you back up again. It gives me a heart attack every time, but you just smile at her, even laugh at her sometimes, which is total encouragement to her to do it again!

You’re not sitting or crawling yet, but you’re trying really hard to. In fact, you get so frustrated when you’re lying on your back straining your head, arms and legs in an attempt to get up. It’s quite funny, actually, and so endearing. You have managed to ‘scoot’ yourself off the bed twice though, so I’ve put you in the travel cot for the early parts of the evenings now.

Your wide, open-mouthed smile is gorgeous, it lights up your face. It stops strangers on the street. Everyone that meets you comments on your beautiful eyes and your amazing smile.

You’ve started ‘chatting’ to yourself, which is superbly cute. You say the ‘goo-goo’s and every now and then you’ll throw in a ‘da-da-da’. I love it. You’re so beautiful.

I was worried, once, that your ‘firsts’ wouldn’t be such a big deal, since we’ve been through ‘firsts’ before, but no, it’s not like that.  Every time you do something new, I feel a thrill, an absolute wave of pure, unadulterated, unbridled joy. I have so much pride wash over me when you reach over and grab a new toy, or when you learned to jump in the jumperoo, or when you roll yourself over.

I smile at, and because of you, all the time. It’s just wonderful being part of your life. I regularly look at you and thank God for giving us you. I thank you for choosing us. I thank you for coming to us. At least once a day I close my eyes and breathe you in, trying to capture, and to remember these days, these moments.

I try to remember how you grab my breast with both your hands when you’re nursing. I want to remember how you hold on to my nursing necklace sometimes, and how you love playing with it. I want to remember how you like lying on top of my nursing as I rock you to sleep.

A few weeks ago you were asleep on my shoulder and you put your arm around my neck. A purposeful placement and I melted. I love that. I remember doing that with my dad and feeling so secure in his arms. I hope you feel secure in mine.

I am overwhelmed, sometimes, by the awesomeness of motherhood, by the magnitude of a love I spent 30 years not knowing I was even missing out on. I wouldn’t change a thing about who you are, about who you are to me.

I heard a quote about birth this week that I loved:

“The instant of birth is exquisite. Pain and joy are one at this moment. Ever after, the dim recollection is so sweet that we speak to our children with a gratitude they never understand.” ~Madeline Tiger

I think that’s true of being your mother too – I will forever have a gratitude to both my girls that neither of you will understand, until perhaps, you hold your own babies in your arms.

I love you so much



The Big Latch On 2012, Farnham

Today we had a lovely picnic as part of The Big Latch On in Farnham, Surrey.

The Big Latch On  sees groups of breastfeeding women come together at registered locations around the world, at a set time they all latch on their child for one minute while being counted by witnesses. The numbers are added up and see if we beat previous Big Latch On records or maybe even the world record! Last year there were a total of 5687 nursing mothers in 412 locations in 5 countries.

At the time of writing – half way through the two day event – there are already 3503 breastfeeding children (allowing for tandem nursing!) in 624 locations over a whopping 23 countries! What an incredible increase in participation!

At our first ever Farnham event we had 12 breastfeeding mums and 13 nursing babies.

(Click twice to enlarge)

The Big Latch On is originally from New Zealand. It was started by Women’s Health Action in 2005 as part of World Breastfeeding Week. Each year they have seen a growth in the numbers of breastfeeding women attending and an increase in the support for breastfeeding in public. The Big Latch On was introduced to Portland, Oregon in 2010 by Joanne Edwards as a celebration for World Breastfeeding Week. In 2011 Joanne worked with Annie Brown and members of La Leche League USA to grow the Big Latch On across the USA.

And so it spread to the UK. Someone asked me today where I heard about the event, and I honestly don’t remember! I’m just glad I did and glad I was able to organise it.

Sitting there today, feeding my Aviya with the other mothers, I felt such a bond with not just those in our meetup, but with mothers all over the UK feeding at exactly the same time, and with those across the world nursing their babies at 10.30 local time throughout the world.

I know it wasn’t just me, either. One of the mums who attended wrote on her feedback form that it had a “lovely community spirit” and another wrote that the event “felt special”. I was proud, today, to be among mothers who are changing perceptions and changing the future for breastfeeding mothers in the gentlest way.

Naomi Stadlen writes in her new book, “How Mothers Love” (US here) about how mothers can be a force for change.

The political role of mothers is also changing. Every society owes a great deal to the work of the mothers. We could exert an even stronger and more conscious social and political influence than we have recently started to do. I often wonder if people are afraid that we might.



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